RALEIGH — Michael A. Patterson trudged up to his SUV on Friday afternoon as a Raleigh city parking agent cranked out an expired-meter ticket the second one he had left on the silver Jeeps windshield that day.
Patterson, 31, was cheerful and apologetic.
Yeah, I got stuck in a training session and couldnt get away, he told the agent. Im well aware. I left it here, I get the ticket.
Raleigh installed parking meters downtown in 2010 to open up some of the citys most precious real estate: on-street parking spaces. The idea was to discourage some drivers downtown workers, mostly who hog the sweet spots all day. Shoppers and restaurant patrons want some of those convenient parking spaces, too.
Parking spots have time limits of 15 minutes to two hours. The meters cost $1 an hour. Most parking tickets will set you back $20, plus a $20 late fee if you dont pay within 21 days. After youve collected a few tickets, maybe youll be ready to rent space in one of the public or private parking decks at $100 to $150 a month.
Thats the theory, anyway. But city records show that hundreds of drivers are willing to pay the price to park all day on Fayetteville and surrounding streets.
On a recent list of 4,525 vehicles with at least three tickets overdue by at least three months, there were 950 cars that had received two tickets on the same day, in the same spot, on at least two different dates.
Pattersons Jeep sits on top of the heap.
On May 4, he owed Raleigh $1,800 for 49 tickets collected over three months, all in the 100 block of Fayetteville Street, in many cases two or three on the same day. Thats $600 per month for parking four times the going rate for a vacant spot in the Alexander Square garage in that same block.
City officials say Pattersons Jeep has been booted a couple of times immobilized for nonpayment of tickets at least 90 days old. He is one of several drivers who have learned how to avoid getting booted again. He paid off his February tickets on May 8, leaving March 1 as the date of his oldest unpaid ticket.
That meant he would not hit the 90-day threshold for a parking boot, and a $50 boot fee, until June 1.
He knows that as long as hes not 90 days out, hes good most of the habitual offenders know that, said Tina Overton, the city parking operations director. And hes a nice guy. He comes and pays his tickets. Ive told him about Alexander Square, and Ive told him about the city deck. But he doesnt want any of them.
Some downtown business owners like to keep their cars on the street, and they send employees out to feed the meter and watch for parking agents. Theyre still likely to pick up parking tickets.
They prefer to pay so they can have this convenience, rather than park in the deck, said John M. Wynn, the assistant city parking administrator. The ticketing is just our trying to keep people moving along. This isnt our desire in life, to do this. Our desire is to keep the spaces open.
Patterson said he wasnt surprised to learn that he had racked up more unpaid parking tickets than anybody else in town. But he was embarrassed when the Road Worrier pointed out the crumpled tickets on the floor of his car.
Its just me running late for work and needing to park closer, Patterson said. I do pay them, a lot of them at once. I paid some last week. I just pay them in lumps.
He declined to talk further or to say where he works on that block. By Monday afternoon, a check of the city website showed that Patterson had paid off all his tickets.
News researcher David Raynor contributed to this report
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